Friday, May 08, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Arkansas institution to end with school

The people at tiny Gillett in Arkansas County raised the stakes considerably in their battle to preserve the little high school, which has slumped to an enrollment of 88. If the high school goes, the Gillett Coon Supper may vanish, too, and who is willing to bear the blame for that cultural catastrophe?

No Arkansas politician certainly, although every one of them in his private sanctum is muttering, “Thank God.”

Gillett was one of those tiny school districts that were consolidated as a result of the school reorganization law that that the legislature passed in 2004. Now the DeWitt School District says it is wasteful to try to maintain a viable high school at Gillett with so few students, and the high school is to be closed and the students transported to De Witt. That is a process that affected tens of thousands of rural Arkansas kids the past 50 years, nearly all of them for the better.

The papers and television have carried stirring lamentations from parents, students and townspeople about what the loss of the high school and its athletic teams, the Wolves, will mean to the town. No one mentions the richer curriculum that will be available to the youngsters next fall.

The threat of ending the Coon Supper is supposed to give the school people at DeWitt pause. The Coon Supper has been a fixture on the political stump circuit since 1947. Townspeople cook up hundreds of raccoons, sans skin, and politicians come from the four corners of the state in January to be seen and meet before the election season begins.

The supper raises money for the athletic teams and is thrown in the gymnasium. It is a serious faux pas for a statewide politician to miss it, even if his job is not on the ballot that year. For generations, the Gillett Coon Supper was one of three such political feasts that politicians were expected to attend if they did not want to be shut out in the local precincts. The others were the Mount Nebo Chicken Fry at Dardanelle and the Pink Tomato Festival at Warren. At each one you were expected to be seen engorging on the local specialty.

Ripe pink tomatoes and fried chicken were one thing, but boiled raccoon quite another. Some politicians always made a serious effort to get down a helping of coon without retching; others made only a pretense, moving the meat around on their paper plates until they could ditch it in the trash bins. Bill Clinton said that forcing down boiled coon in front of a grinning crowd made every other ordeal in his political life — facing down Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority after the Democratic catastrophe in 1994, impeachment — seem like a cakewalk.

No politician will honestly plead for the coon supper to continue, but something tells us that, high school or no high school, the Gillett Coon Supper will still be with us, at least until climate change drives the critters to cooler climes. Then it may be the armadillo’s turn. — Ernie Dumas

SPORTS >> Lady Lions fall short in tourney

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE – A three-peat was not meant to be on Friday.

That was most evident when the tying goal for Searcy by Kerry Moon with an assist from McKenzie Clark with 3:21 left to play was negated on an offside call.

The result was Mountain Home hanging on for a 2-1 win over the Lady Lions at Ladyback Soccer Field on Friday afternoon in the 6A state soccer finals.

The Lady Bombers (16-3-1) got their initial lead at the 12-minute mark of the second half on a side shot by Hannah Osmon, and went up 2-0 on a penalty kick by midfielder Kirsten Peterson six minutes later.

Searcy (15-6-2) got its only score of the match at the 19-minute mark of the second half on a free kick by Clark that was assisted by Chloe Birdwell, and attacked furiously into the final five minutes, but the Lady Lions’ spirits were deflated when Moon’s goal was waved off.

“The grass was wet, but that’s no excuse, because they played on the same field,” said Lady Lions coach Larry Stamps. “We always start out slow for some reason. Today was the same thing. We are usually a second-half team against this team, but it didn’t work out today.”

The Lady Lions tied Mountain Home and lost in their two 6A-East Conference matches during the season.

The Lady Lions controlled the ball through the first 20 minutes of the first half for the most part, but came up short on five shots on goal by Clark, and a free kick by Birdwell at the 32:57 mark. Mountain Home began to press in the latter stages of the half, but found getting past Searcy goalkeeper Larysa Rowley a tough task.

Rowley stopped eight shots total in the first half, the majority of which came from speedy Lady Bombers freshman forward Nicole Bolt.

Bolt got dangerously close in the final three minutes with a drive up the middle, but Rowley was able to stop the shot despite losing her footing.

It was Searcy’s third finals appearance in as many years. Stamps, in his first year as head coach of the Lady Lions soccer team, said he expects to make more trips to the finals in the coming years.

“We have parents who take these kids to ballgames all the time,” said Stamps. “And that’s one of the biggest things, that’s why our program is so successful. They do that when they’re young, so when I get them, it’s a piece of cake then.”

For Mountain Home coach Debbie Atkinson, the championship came in her team’s first trip to the state finals after falling to Jonesboro last year in the semis.

“They played hard for each other,” said Atkinson. “We were a team all the way from October. This is a team victory. Our seniors have worked so hard, and I am so proud of them.”

SPORTS >> Lions nail down three-peat feat

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE – Searcy’s third-straight 6A state championship was hard won. In a very physical match, endurance was the team’s key component.

The Lions survived to beat 6A-East Conference foe Mountain Home 3-0 in a match Friday that was stopped three different times for injuries, including a harsh collision between Mountain Home goalkeeper Jake Bolt and Searcy junior Trey Oliveto in the sixth minute of the second half.

It came down to a trio of scattered Searcy goals, first by sophomore forward Steven Seitz in the first nine minutes of the game with the second goal coming from senior Jordan Smith less than two minutes later.

Senior defender Brandon West scored the final goal for the Lions in the 26th minute of the second half to earn MVP honors, as the Lions (20-0-2) coasted to their third-straight 6A title on Friday at Ladyback Soccer Field. It was the second straight year that they met the Bombers (15-4-1) in the state championship match.

“Our main objective was to come out and establish a game in our favor,” said Lions coach Bronco King. “And we did that. We kind of set the tone for how we were going to play. Plus the wet turf here, judging the ball and all of those things kind of had something to do with it also, but we were fortunate to get those goals there in the first half also.”

The game was full of physical play, resulting in two yellow cards shown to Mountain Home, and a red card given to Bombers midfielder Jake Strother in the 11th minute of the second half.

That physicality turned scary early in the second half, when Oliveto went for a shot at the goal at the same time that MH goalkeeper Bolt went diving for the save. The result was Oliveto’s knee meeting the back of Bolt’s head. Bolt went down and had to be carted off on a stretcher.

“It seemed like once Jake got hurt, we didn’t pick it back up for a while,” said Bombers coach Bryan Mattox. “Then we got the red card, and it seemed like things just went down hill from there. They deserve it. (Searcy) is a great team. To win three in a row, that takes something special.”

Searcy finished with eight shots on goal and eight corner kicks, while the Bombers had four shots on goal and three corner kicks.

“It feels pretty good, because we’ve had a bull’s eye on our chest all year long,” said King. “People have given us their best shot. The kids didn’t need much talking to for them to get ready every game. They knew that they were going to be marked.”

SPORTS >> Fifth-inning breakdown dooms Lions

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – It was a fifth inning the Searcy Lions will forever want to purge from their memories.

After busting through a scoreless tie Friday to take a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, the bottom fell out for the Lions in the form of two errors, two walks and three doubles. The Benton Panthers parlayed all of that into a five-run fifth inning and went on to claim the 6A championship with an 8-5 win on Friday afternoon at Baum Stadium.

It was Benton’s first-ever state baseball crown as they finished the season 28-2.

“Offensively, we had some opportunities early that we didn’t take advantage of,” said Searcy coach Clay McCammon, whose Lions finished the season 21-5. “In the fifth, we had a couple of breakdowns that hurt us and then Benton came up with some big hits.

“It’s disappointing, but the kids played hard. I’m proud of our seniors and I’m proud of our team.”

In a game in which pitching was dominant, Searcy’s two runs in the fourth put them in prime position to claim its first-ever state baseball title.

But just like that, sophomore starter Dillon Howard, who entered the fifth inning allowing just two hits and fanning six, couldn’t find the plate. His first 10 offerings in the inning were balls, and that was just the beginning of Searcy’s troubles.

“I think Dillon got a little winded out there,” McCammon said. Dillon threw 72 pitches in the contest. “It was kind of humid and that may have been a factor.”

With two on and no one out, Drew McCurry tried to bunt the runners over, but popped it up but in no man’s land behind the pitcher’s mound. Still, Howard scooped it up and had an easy force at third. But he threw wild as a run came in to make it 2-1.

Howard left in favor of reliever Jonathan Luthe, who was greeted with an Ashton Wilson double into the gap in right center that put Benton up 3-2. One out later, Lee Richardson’s shot to right hit the yellow piping and stayed in play, but it was good for a double and a 4-2 Panther lead. For good measure, Chase Southworth lined a double into the left field corner and Benton went up 5-2.

Reliever Zach Langley came in to put out the fire with a pair of strikeouts but the damage was done.

That inning temporarily took all the starch out of the Lions’ sails as Benton reliever Colby Roberts set them down in order in fifth and sixth innings.

Benton added three runs in the seventh and they turned out to be the difference as Searcy gamely tried to rally in the bottom half of the inning. Trailing 8-2, Jordan Bradley, Luthe and Mac Ellis all singled to load the bases. An error on the Benton second baseman scored a run and Zach Langley lined a two-run single to center and, suddenly, the Panther lead was down to 8-5 and the tying run was at the plate, still with just one out.

But relief pitcher Nathan Pirl got Preston Tarkington to bounce back to the mound. Tate Ruddell grounded out to the third baseman to end it.

“That’s been our team all year long,” McCammon said. “They’re not going to quit. We’ve been behind before and I think they really believed they had a chance. I’m proud of them for not giving up.”

Searcy finished with four errors, though as it turned out, only one of Benton’s eight runs was unearned.

After squandering a bases-loaded, no-outs opportunity in the third, the Lions finally opened the scoring in the fourth.

Langley beat out an infield hit. With two outs, Cody Perry ripped a single to left and Langley was able to slide around the tag of Panther catcher Cole Durham as Searcy took a 1-0 lead. Perry, who took second on the throw home, scored on Bradley’s looping single to left.

An inning earlier, walks to Perry and Bradley sandwiched around an infield single by Nick Ginardi loaded the bases with no one out and chased Panther starter Ashton Wilson. But reliever Roberts got Luthe on a pop up and Ellis on a fielder’s choice force at the plate.

Howard then sent a slow roller that got under the glove of the charging third baseman. But shortstop Justin Mills scooped it and threw on the run, just getting Howard when Richardson made a great scoop of the low throw.

Each team had nine hits, though Benton had five doubles and a triple while it was all singles for Searcy. Bradley, Luthe and Langley had two hits apiece. Howard took the loss, despite giving up only two hits and striking out six over four-plus innings.

Colby Roberts, the game’s MVP, got the win in relief, though he allowed seven hits and four earned runs over 4 1/3 innings.

“We lose eight seniors who all contributed in some way or another,” said McCammon. “But we started three sophomores and a junior so we’ll have a good nucleus coming back.”

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers fall

Leader sports editor

It’s hard enough knowing you were a run or two away from a berth in the state championship. It’s extra difficult when you know you should have won the game.

The Cabot Lady Panthers committed a base running mistake that may have cost them a run and committed a pair of errors that gave a run to North Little Rock in a 3-2 loss in the 7A state semifinals on Wednesday at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

“They had a good run,” said Cabot head coach Becky Steward, whose Lady Panthers finished 21-7. “No one expected us to be here. They expected a Fayetteville-North Little Rock matchup.

“We’ll be back.”

The Lady Panthers, the No. 4 seed out of the Central Conference, were making a bid for their first state final appearance since 2000 and twice enjoyed leads in the contest. But Allie Shelton erased that second lead with a home run in the fourth inning that tied the game at 2. North Little Rock took its only lead of the game when Hannah Escovedo grounded a sharp single just under the glove of Cabot second baseman Kristi Flesher with two outs in the sixth to bring home what proved to be the winning run from second base.

“Kristi (just about got to it),” Steward said. “A half step to either side. (Escovedo) had hit it to this side (on an earlier single) but she took it back between Kristi and the bag. Things happen for a reason.”

It was a game of patterns for the Lady Panthers, who went 1-2-3 in the second, fourth and sixth innings and got two singles in each of the first, third and fifth. Doubles by Cherie Barfield and Jenny Evans produced a 1-0 Cabot lead after half an inning.

But Cabot’s only two errors of the game came in the bottom half of the inning and it allowed the Lady Wildcats to tie it.

A hit batter to open the frame followed by a pair of throwing errors made it 1-1. North Little Rock’s bid to take the lead was thwarted when Becca Bakalekos made a diving catch of a soft liner in center field with runners at second and third.

Cabot reclaimed the lead in the third, but may have missed an opportunity for more. Jordan Reed’s sinking line drive got past North Little Rock’s diving center fielder for a double and Bakalekos followed with a line single to left. Bakalekos stole second, but thinking the ball had been foul tipped, headed back to first base. She was declared out.

“(Bakalekos) said their second baseman said ‘foul ball,’” Steward explained. “She said the shortstop repeated ‘foul ball,’ and she was walking back and heard (the umpire) say ‘foul ball.’ But that’s neither here nor there. They took advantage of their base runners and we didn’t.”

Cabot was able to get a run home in the inning when Barfield grounded out to second to score Reed and put the Lady Panthers up 2-1.

Barfield was marching along on the mound, retiring 10 in a row until Shelton stepped to the plate with two outs in the fourth.

The tall right-hander hit a long drive to left-center and Cabot left fielder Brooke Taylor nearly made the play on it as she crashed through the temporary fence.

Cabot had a chance to answer back in the fifth. Chelsea Conrade laced a single to right to start things off. One out later, Jordan Reed hit it right on the button but right at the North Little Rock center fielder. With two outs, Bakalekos lined a pitch into left to put the go-ahead run into scoring position. But Barfield tapped back to the third baseman to end the threat.

The Lady Panthers then went in order in the sixth and seventh innings as the Lady Wildcats advanced to the title game on Saturday at noon, when they’ll take on Bryant.

“The errors (in the first inning) I don’t think hurt us,” Steward said. “We jumped on them 1-0 and we believed all year long that if we score first, we’re going to win. They believed that going into the very last inning.”

Cabot out-hit North Little Rock 6-3, but two walks, a hit batter and two errors helped the cause of the Lady Wildcats, who committed no errors and issued no walks in the contest.

Bakalekos had two hits, while Barfield, Evans, Conrade and Jordan Reed had one apiece.

Barfield struck out three and allowed three hits.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

TOP STORY >> Pupils get recycling lesson

Leader staff writer

At the tender ages of 9 and 10, a select group of Cabot public school students are being challenged to think about the future well-being of planet Earth.

As part of an instructional unit introduced this January, all third- and fourth-graders in the district’s gifted and talented program took an in-depth look at lifestyle habits and professions that help the environment and conserve natural resources. They were asked to consider, “If we don’t do these things today, what will our world be like in the future?”

Teachers and the educational specialist for the Cabot schools’ gifted and talented program, Melissa Elliott, spent most of last year developing the material for the ecological-awareness unit. Their vision is that their charges – tomorrow’s leaders – will be inspired to become stewards of the Earth.

The unit included Internet research on the three R’s of conservation – reducing, reusing and recycling; making an edible landfill to understand its composition and environmental risks; and reading and writing about a “green” job of choice.

The culmination was taking the morning of April 24 to visit the Jacksonville Recycling Center and adjoining recycling park on Marshall Road.

Students got an up-close look at the workings of the center and learned how materials pulled from the waste stream can be recycled for a myriad of uses.

The park was developed through the efforts of Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and the city of Jacksonville. It has educational displays on composting, a disc golf course, picnic tables and pavilion and a series of plaques about the uses of recycled goods, for which Entergy provided funding.

After returning to school, students were asked to share what they learned from the unit of study and the field trip. Here are what some Magness Creek Elementary School students had to say:

“Before I toured the recycling center, I did not know how bad landfills could be. I really did not think one little person could make a difference. Knowing that one person can make a difference has changed my life and my feelings about recycling.” ­— Avery Elliott, age 10

“What I learned from my field trip is how destructive people can be to our planet in such a short period of time. I wish everyone knew how much damage they cause the Earth by their actions. I wish they would change their actions. If we don’t make these changes, then our future could see us living on a big trash ball.” — Dalton Ailey, age 10

“I learned that it is NOT a sacrifice to switch to compact fluorescent bulbs; in fact, it will lower your light bill. And, it is NOT a sacrifice to take a recycling bin to the curb. I hope people will make a difference by changing their behaviors ... please!” — Lauren Whitmire, age 10

“The Jacksonville Recycling Center really does do great deeds for the Earth and the public. You can even get free mulch made from recycled yard waste. Overall, this trip really changed my mind and I think inspired us all of the little things we can all do to go green.” ­—Elizabeth Rushing, age 10

“I had no idea that the Jacksonville Recycling Center could recycle so many things! I am thinking about getting my family to take all of the extra garbage that we can’t recycle in Cabot to the Jacksonville Recycling Center. I wish my town would recycle as much as Jacksonville.” ­— Brandon Weidling, age 10

“The most important thing that I learned from my green field trip was that you can compost almost anything. If people would compost things more often then landfills would not be as big. It is no sacrifice to use the composted dirt for gardening. The flowers are even prettier in it than from planting soil you buy at the store.” ­— Christen Johnson, age 9

“The most interesting thing I learned is that it takes 700 years for plastic to break down. It was surprising to learn about how we are trashing our own Earth. So, please, help by living by the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. — Victoria Clinton, age 9

“I would tell others that our generation is about throwing away everything. I would also say that we should all get a bin for recycling and start doing our part.” —Manjunath Bettadapura, age 9

TOP STORY >> Sheriff probes brawl at Pickthorne

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies are looking for teenagers who were involved in a fight Sunday night at Lake Pickthorne.

The fight left about a dozen Jacksonville teenagers injured when a fist fight with Cabot teenagers at Lake Pickthorne turned more violent after the Cabot teens left and returned armed with bricks, metal bars and at least one knife.

Lt. Jim Kulesa of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies were called after the fight was over and the Jacksonville teens had gathered at a friend’s house where they realized that some of their injuries required medical treatment.

He and other deputies interviewed a group of about 30 parents and teens in the parking lot at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville.

One boy who said he was struck in the face with an iron bar while trying to help a friend to his feet was hospitalized. A girl who said she was struck by a pickup in the parking lot was not hospitalized.

The injuries for the whole group included broken bones.

Kulesa said investigators think the fight had been brewing since Friday and may have started with text messages.

The Cabot teens were white and the Jacksonville teens were both black and white, he said. But although some racial slurs were reportedly used, the incident did not appear to be racially motivated.

The Jacksonville teens said they believed the fight was over when the Cabot teens left, Kulesa said, but then they came back with reinforcement and weapons.

The teens’ story was corroborated by spots of blood in the parking lot at the lake, as well as broken glass and weapons, he said. A knife, pieces of bricks and metal bars were found at the scene. Two vehicles were heavily damaged.

Kulesa said some of the suspects have been identified and arrests will be made when the investigation is completed.

“I have directed a full investigation into this incident,” Sheriff Jim Roberson said. “We have identified some of the suspects involved in this incident and will proceed until everyone involved is identified. This type of violence and behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in Lonoke County.”

Cpl. Dennis Sanderson and De-puty Brandon McKiever also helped with the investigation.

TOP STORY >> New Cabot church welcomes singer

Leader staff writer

The congregation at eight-week-old Abundant Blessings Church in Cabot had a special treat Sunday morning.

Not only was founder Dr. Randy Caldwell present, but Michael Sarver of “American Idol” joined in the praise and worship service.

Sarver, a native of Jasper, Texas, agreed to stop in at the new church after longtime friend Caldwell called him. “We just figured we’d have a good time for God,” Sarver said.

“I always remember those who encouraged me. He was one of them,” he said of Caldwell.
Sarver performed an energetic and impressive praise and worship service before Caldwell’s sermon. “I am what I am because of Jesus Christ,” Sarver proclaimed during the service.

The 27-year-old former oil rig worker says he auditioned for American Idol “mostly because of my sister-in-law.”

He says she had always wanted to audition. So Sarver, his wife and sister-in-law made their way to Phoenix, Ariz. Sarver got a ticket to Hollywood, but his sister-in-law didn’t.

“She’s the biggest supporter in the world,” he says of his sister-in-law.

“‘American Idol’ was a journey that I’ll never forget,” he says. “I grew as a singer. I grew as an artist, but I also grew as a person.” Sarver made the top 10, but was voted out during Motown week last March.

Sarver says his first experience in Cabot was meeting so many friendly people.

The second was the eating fried chicken at Crossroads CafĂ©. “There’s fried chicken, and then there’s FRIED CHICKEN,” he said. Sarver joked that the friendly people are lucky that he met them before finding out about the chicken.

After enjoying his meal, Sarver, Dr. Caldwell and others from the church went bowling Saturday evening. “We’ve had fun,” he says of his Cabot visit.

Sarver also met some family members for the first time in person. His wife has grandparents, aunts and uncles that live in the area.

He says the No. 1 thing he noticed first about Arkansas native Kris Allen is that “he was a man of God. I have an automatic bond with those.

“I think it’s very special what (Jacksonville native) Kris Allen has brought to ‘American Idol,’” he says. Sarver and Allen, along with the rest of the “American Idol” top 10, will make a stop at Alltel Arena on July 25.

Tickets go on sale Saturday.

Sarver predicts that the Little Rock stop of the tour will be big. “Houston’s mad because they’re not getting the tour,” he says.

If you tune in to the results show at 8 tonight, you can see if Allen makes the next round.

Abundant Blessings Church meets at 10 a.m. each Sunday in Cabot Junior High South’s cafeteria.

Allen was born and raised in Jacksonville and now lives in Conway with his wife, Katy. He is the son of Neil and Kim Allen of Maumelle, formerly of Jacksonville. His grandparents, Charles and Linda Wood, still live in Jacksonville.

TOP STORY >> Scholarship winners honored at annual banquet

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Scholarship Foundation gave out its first scholarship in 1992. For this school year, nearly 40 scholarships totaling about $38,000 were awarded through the foundation.

Scholarship winners were honored last week at the foundation’s annual fund-raising dinner.

The purpose of the foundation is to encourage and recognize academic excellence at Cabot High School.

Scholarships are made available to CHS seniors who have achieved academic excellence and who have demonstrated a desire to continue their education at the college or university level.

Funds come from individuals, civic clubs, groups and businesses. The scholarships often honor former teachers or a loved one.

Many scholarships such as the Carolyn Mann and Carolyn Park scholarships had been awarded long before the formation of the scholarship foundation, but are now given out through the foundation.

Scholarship winners include:

– Hayden Balgavy, winner of the $1,000 Cabot Centennial Scholarship.

– Erica Roberg and Melissa Franchek, winners of the $1,500 Carolyn Mann scholarships.

– Kelsey Sparks, winner of the $1,250 Carolyn Park Scholarship.

– Linda Gault, winner of the $1,000 Cabot Area Home Builders Association Scholarship.

– Nathan Byrnes, winner of the $1,000 Mike Malham Jr. Scholarship.

– David (D.J.) Glover, winner of the $1,500 Luther and Frances Rea Memorial Scholarship.

– Seth Mayfield, winner of the $1,000 Pamela Roberts-Smith Scholarship.

– James Santiago, winner of the $1,000 Mayor Willie and Gene Ray Scholarship.

– Rebecca Breeding, winner of the $1,000 Warren and Sandra Knight Scholarship.

– Alex Eanes, winner of the $1,500 Paula B. Green Memorial Scholarship.

– Lindsey Sled, winner of the $1,000 Charley Templeton Memorial Scholarship.

– Kayla Miller, winner of the Lance and Leann Hanshaw Servant-Leader Scholarship.

– Kristin Hopkins, winner of the $1,000 Jake P. and Judy Lowman Scholarship.

– Jack Bridges, winner of the $500 Regions Bank Scholarship.

– Korey Hendrix, James Miller and William Peckat, winners of the $500 Dr. Martha Ray Internship scholarships.

– Haley White, winner of the $1,000 Jeraldine Brown Scholarship.

– Brittany Einhorn, winner of the $1,000 Frances Holt Wittenberg Scholarship.

– Jacob Cervantes, winner of the $500 James D. Frederick Memorial Scholarship.

– Judy Pitts, winner of the $1,000 Nell and Thompson Barnwell Scholarship.

– Lindsey Grisham, winner of the $500 Cabot Fine Arts Council Scholarship.

– Terence Thornton, winner of the Cabot Junior High South Junior Honor Society Scholarship.

– Ethan Robson, winner of the $500 Scott Foltz Memorial Scholarship.

– Ashley Bartels, winner of the $1,000 Junior Auxiliary of Cabot Scholarship.

– William Hafner, winner of the $1,000 Jason Allan Moore Memorial Scholarship.

– Shelbie McCoy, winner of the $1,000 Cabot Panther Education Foundation Scholarship.

– Laura Foltz, $1,000 winner of the P.E.O. Chapter DL Scholarship.

– Nicklaus Benton, winner of the $500 Cabot Chamber of Commerce Scholarship.

– Blake Kaplon, winner of the $2,000 1st Lt. Tom Martin Memorial Scholarship.

– Denver Disotell, winner of the $500 Chris Robertson Memorial Scholarship.

– Carrie Lieblong, winner of the $500 Daniel Carron Memorial Scholarship.

– Melissa VanScoy, winner of the $1,500 Utley Brothers Scholarship.

– Taylor Hill, winner of the $500 Imagine Paul Mitchell Partner School Cosmetology Scholarship.

– Jordan Kinder, winner of the $600 Cabot AARP Scholarship.

– Shelby Robinson, winner of the $2,000 Centennial Bank Scholarship.

– Jordan Murdoch, winner of the $1,000 Cabot School Employees Scholarship.

– Patrick McFadden, winner of the $2,000 Kent and Karen Knight Scholarship.

Cabot Scholarship Foundation chairman John Thompson also recognized other major scholarship winners whose awards did not come through the foundation. Those students included:

– Shelby Davis and Sydney Rasch, winners of the $10,000 National Merit Finalists Award. The award is paid out over four years.

– Daniel Davis, Shelby Davis, Chad Hankins, Chase Henrichs, Lindsay Hoggart, Erin Larsen, Seth Mayfield, Sydney Rasch and Kristin Sumler, all winners of the $10,000 Governor’s Distinguished Award. The award is paid out over four years.

– Shelby Davis and Chad Hankins, winners of the $50,000 Honors College Fellowship. The award is paid out over four years.

– Chad Hankins, winner of the $12,000 State Farm scholarship. The award is paid out over four years.

EDITORIAL >> Lu could do no wrong

Will there ever again be a week or even a couple of days without more bad news about the University of Central Arkansas, where the redoubtable Lu Hardin once reigned as president and promoter? The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, which has marked the sparrow’s fall at the college since the disclosures last summer that Hardin had arranged an illegal bonus for himself, carried a report last week of a legislative audit of the university that detailed a litany of illegal or imprudent financial activities undertaken on Hardin’s watch or in the cleanup after his resignation.

We have some sympathy for the university, which now cannot escape the glare of the media for everything that happens, from the smallest misjudgment to the serious scandals surrounding Hardin’s fiduciary conduct. Having once been lavishly overpraised, Lu Hardin and the hapless university that became associated with him now experience the slings and arrows of overwrought attention and criticism. One usually follows the other. For three years Hardin and his relentless promotions of the school were the subject of glowing stories and lavish editorials in the Democrat Gazette, for some of the same things that have since gotten the school and Hardin in trouble.

Six months before the storm, on Nov. 17, 2007, the newspaper gushed about Hardin’s use of state funds for scholarships, which exceeded the law. The law needs to be changed, the Democrat Gazette said, and it implied that other universities ought to emulate him. Lu grabs a lot of publicity, the paper said, “But he’s doing it for his school, and, more to the point, he knows what he’s doing.”

A year earlier, the editor praised him for spending millions of taxpayer dollars on commercials for the school, which a Republican lawmaker had criticized as a misuse of state funds. Hardin came by the newspaper’s office to explain his side. Effused the paper’s editorial page the next day:

“Lu is a rarity: an ex-politician-turned academic you actually like to see coming. He’s plain Arkansas nice and has a Southerner’s native sense of when to stop talking and head for the exit. Boy, is under-staying one’s welcome ever a disappearing act.”

Lu Hardin could do no wrong.

He began to believe it.

Any corner that he cut was for the cause: a bigger university, better athletic programs, the school’s reputation as a center of learning. All the great publicity proved that he deserved much better pay, and that was his undoing. He wrote a memo to the board of trustees over the names of three inferior administrators justifying a big bonus for himself. That discovery ended the man’s elaborate charade, and the newspapers that had praised him so lavishly, notably the Democrat Gazette, turned on him and the school with a vengeance. The stories and the editorials have been relentless: the school’s fudging a little on the use of state funds for athletes, the lavishing of scholarships on students who had connections with the president but no other discernible claim on them, and on and on.

The legislative audit, which is conducted every two years, may have been his undoing anyway, but the auditors this time knew where to look. They questioned the legality of the $300,000 bonus paid to the president, later returned, and the nearly $1 million that the board settled on him as a buyout when it was clear that he had to resign. Some of that was returned and the university found private sources for the payment besides state funds.

Mostly, it was Hardin and his people cutting corners to do what they wanted to do even if it violated state law or the university’s own policies. Hardin took the school into the highest NCAA athletic division, a costly proposition, and funds were too scarce to do it. They found ways.

They wanted to pay the head football coach more than the state appropriation allowed so they washed state tax funds through an advertising agency back into the university’s quasi-private foundation, which cut the checks totaling $82,500 to the coach. Officially, the university was paying an advertising agency for services rendered.

But it was all, you see, for the good of the university, and the laws were in the way. It’s what a “plain Arkansas nice” guy would do — if you keep telling him he’s doing marvelous things.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader

EDITORIAL >> PCSSD must be more open

The Pulaski County Special School District’s Board, which has arrogantly thumbed its nose at the state Freedom of Information Act, got some bad news during executive session Wednesday—it shouldn’t have been in executive session.

An attorney for the Arkansas Association of School Boards, phoned for his opinion during an executive session, told the board it takes more than uttering the word “personnel” to allow a board to go into executive session.

The board is sometimes in such a hurry to conduct the public’s business in private that it goes into executive session without even voting—just a motion, a second and a stampede for the back room.

It has done that three times at least.

This newspaper and one other have repeatedly warned the board that it was in violation of the FOI, but the board claims that its lawyer, Jay Bequette, says the board was right.

Now, we like Bequette, but the board hires and fires him (and in recent months it’s done both), and we don’t remember a time he couldn’t find a rationalization for letting the board do whatever it wanted—sort of the Alberto Gonzales of the PCSSD.

So far the board hasn’t resorted to waterboarding, as far as we know.

Whether the board members actually believed that all you had to do to meet in private is to utter the word “personnel” in the motion for executive session, or just hide behind that word, they were wrong and now they know.

Board member Mildred Tatum first refused to go into the session, saying it was illegal and she wouldn’t participate, then decided that someone had to witness the transgressions.

It was Danny Gililland who challenged Board President Tim Clark on the issue and the two men called the association lawyer from the office of the superintendent.

A school board may go into executive session only to hire, fire or discipline personnel.

For instance, the board may go into executive session to fire a teacher who comes to work drunk or a coach who struck a student or to pick between several qualified candidates for a promotion.

Good luck getting rid of a drunken teacher, by the way, if he or she is a member of the teachers’ union.

The board may not go into executive session to discuss whether or not to reduce the number of vice principals in the system, or to discuss where to make cuts in the budget, or whether or not to change board policy or the student handbook, or much of anything else.

There is an exception for discussing the purchase of real estate.

Otherwise ­— Hire. Fire. Discipline. Period.

We continue to have high hopes for interim Superintendent Rob McGill, but he needs to distance himself from his primary benefactor, Tim Clark. There have been a couple of times daylight has appeared between the two on issues at board meetings, but the perception, and perhaps the reality, is that Clark is much too involved in the day-to-day operations of the district and too familiar with the inside of the superintendent’s office.

Assert yourself, Mr. McGill.

EDITORIAL >> Ban shale waste at Two Pine

The Jacksonville City Council should follow the lead of the Little Rock City Board of Directors and ban the dumping of natural gas waste at the local landfill.

Little Rock acted last week after residents complained about the diesel odor coming out of the landfill operated by BFI, but now Jacksonville’s Two Pine Landfill is the destination of choice for waste byproducts hauled in from the Fayetteville Shale north of here.

As Aliya Feldman has been reporting exclusively in The Leader, Two Pine received 225,969 tons of the oil-contaminated waste from January 2008 to February this year. After a short break, the shipment of such wastes resumed once again. Last Wednesday alone — the day after Little Rock banned such materials — Two Pine took in 25 loads, totaling between an estimated 125 to 500 tons of the toxic petroleum byproduct.

Until last week, when the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality banned the practice, the landfill had dumped the waste on top of the growing mounds, which are more susceptible to runoffs. Two Pine now buries the waste under the soil, which is still legal, although the state banned the practice for a while back in the 1990s.

Little Rock would not even allow BFI to bury the gas waste and banned its importation altogether. So now Two Pine gets a good chunk of that material, along with landfills in Pine Bluff, Hazen and DeWitt.

Aliya Feldman reports on today’s front page that Arkansas Reclamation Company of Beebe, which has been dumping waste at those landfills, has been fined by ADEQ for unsafe practices.

The Jacksonville City Council, which meets Thursday, should summon its courage and ban natural gas waste from Two Pine Landfill. That kind of hazardous waste does not belong in a city dump.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

SPORTS >> CAC stuns Sylvan Hills, denies Bears chance for repeat

Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS – Bryce Biggerstaff had his revenge on Sylvan Hills when it counted the most.

Biggerstaff, who was tagged out at the plate by Bears starting pitcher Jordan Spears in the top of the second inning to negate the first potential run for Central Arkansas Christian, came on in relief of Mustang starter Ian Bryan in the bottom of the fifth inning on Tuesday in the 5A semifinals.

He helped stop the Sylvan Hills rally at two runs, and struck out the final three batters in the seventh to secure a 3-2 win for CAC for a berth in the 5A state championship game today at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

CAC (20-8) broke a scoreless game in the top of the fifth with three runs, and outlasted a Bears’ comeback on the bottom side to deny a repeat for last year’s Class 6A state champs.

“CAC did a great job,” said Bears coach Denny Tipton. “They kept us off balance. We really didn’t have that many opportunities.

They just beat us today. When we had the opportunities, we didn’t get the gain. We had some chances there at the end, we just didn’t get it done. Our expectations were high. Our goal was to win; we didn’t get it done, so give CAC all the credit.”

The Bears (32-4) used three from their bullpen. Spears was relieved by senior shortstop Justin Treece in the top of the third inning, who gave way to Blake Evans to begin the sixth inning. Starter Spears was feast or famine, as he gave up three walks and two hits, but struck out four. Treece gave up a walk in the third, two more in the fourth, but held CAC without a hit during that time. That changed in the fifth, when the Mustangs got him for three hits and three walks, resulting in three scores.

Senior second baseman D.J. Baxendale began the Bears’ rally in the fifth with a walk, followed by a base-on-balls to freshman catcher Blake Baxendale. D.J. had to wait through a pair of pop outs before scoring on a single by right fielder Michael Maddox.

Blake scored on a double steal that caught Maddox between first and second, ending Sylvan Hills’ turn after two runs.

Only one other Bear made it on after that.

Biggerstaff replaced Bryan after Maddox’ single, and sent the Bears three up and three down in the sixth. Nathan Eller led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to left center, but the CAC ace dug deep to fan both Baxendales and Spears to prevent the tying run from coming across.

The decisive top of the fifth for the Mustangs started with a single by Bryan, who was caught on a fielder’s choice by John Edwards for the first out. Andrew Pellcey walked to put runners at first and second. One out later, Biggerstaff doubled to score Edwards for the first run of the game. Geno Jameson was then intentionally walked, and Blake Leisenring singled to plate Pellcey to make it 2-0 and load the bases for the Mustangs.

Treece walked Brock Ashford to give Biggerstaff the free trip across for what turned out to be the winning run.

The Mustangs’ first opportunity came in the top of the second. Biggerstaff walked to start the frame, and advanced on a single by Jameson. Leisenring then doubled to send Biggerstaff around the diamond. The throw from left field was off the mark at the plate, but Blake Baxendale recovered and tossed to Spears at the plate, who got the tag just in time to prevent the run.

Sylvan Hills’ only other hit of the game was a bloop single by Eric McKinney in the bottom of the third with two outs, but he was picked off by Bryan.

In all, the Bears gave up six hits, 10 walks and committed two errors. Spears, Treece and Evans combined for 10 strikeouts.

Bryan gave up two hits and two walks while fanning three for CAC, while Biggerstaff allowed only one hit while striking out three.

CAC will take on Harrison, a 7-6 semis winner over Little Rock Christian, today at Baum Stadium at 5:30 p.m.

The Bears advanced in Monday’s quarterfinal round with a 5-2 win over Greenbrier. The Panthers struck first with a pair of runs in the top of the second inning, but a base-clearing double by Ty Van Schoyck on the bottom side cleared the bases and put the Bears up 3-2. D.J. Baxendale scored on a double steal in the bottom of the fifth inning before Michael Maddox set the final margin with an RBI single later in the same frame.

SPORTS >> Lions dominant, roll to title game

Leader sports editor

As rich as Searcy baseball tradition is, it wasn’t until last spring that the Lions won their first-ever state tournament game.

Add two more to that total, as well as a state championship berth this Friday in Fayetteville. The Lions overpowered a pair of opponents this week, walloping Texarkana in the semifinals, 10-0 on Tuesday afternoon at Burns Park. On Monday, they took care of Watson Chapel, last year’s 6A runners-up, 11-1.

Searcy will take on Benton (27-2) at 2 p.m. on Friday at Baum Stadium.

On Tuesday, Searcy wasted no time as its first four batters reached base and scored, starting with a walk to leadoff man Jordan
Bradley. Jonathan Luthe ripped a triple into the right field corner and Mac Ellis laced an RBI single to make it 2-0.

Dillon Howard followed with a two-run homer over the fence in right to make it 4-0. That was going to be more than enough for Luthe, who fanned 10 and allowed just two hits in the six-inning affair.

Luthe’s double and Mac Ellis’ two-run shot over the right-field fence in the third made it 6-0. Zach Langley reached on an error by the Texarkana pitcher, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Preston Tarkington’s groundout.

Tarkington made a miraculous play at third the following inning, diving to his left to snag a sharply hit grounder and, from his knees, throwing the runner out.

Searcy put Texarkana out of its misery with three more runs in the sixth to invoke the mercy rule.

Benton, which like Searcy, went through its conference play undefeated, handled Sheridan 3-1 on Monday and dispatched Lake
Hamilton 6-0 on Tuesday afternoon.


In the quarterfinals, the early play was as sloppy as the field itself, with neither team’s pitcher being able to find the plate early.

But while Searcy hurler Dillon Howard was able to pitch around three walks in the first and eventually settle down, Watson Chapel’s Sebastian Stargell never did.

The Wildcats were able to parlay three walks, an error and a single into only one run in the first inning, while Searcy took advantage of two walks and two hit batters to score two in the bottom half without benefit of a hit.

Searcy broke it open in the third when it sent 11 men to the plate, scoring six of them. Walks to Mac Ellis and Dillon Howard were followed by a bunt single by Zach Langley and an RBI single by Preston Tarkington.

Tate Rudell followed with a two-run single, and Jordan Bradley brought in two more with a double into right center. On the play, Nick Ginardi took advantage of a mental lapse and raced home to make it 8-1.

Howard, who pitched out of a jam in the third when he overcame his own throwing error to turn a double play on the next batter, settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced.

Tarkington belted a no-doubter home run in the fourth to bring home Langley and make it 10-1. His fourth RBI of the game — on a single in the fifth — ended the game with the mercy rule.

After not getting a hit through the first two innings, the Lions belted out nine over the final three. Tarkington was 3 of 4 and Langley added two hits.

Howard allowed three hits and three walks while striking out six.

SPORTS >> Cabot rally falls short in semis

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE — The Cabot Panthers dug themselves a deep early hole, then tried valiantly, but futilely, to climb out of it.
In the end, too many errors, two many walks and too many hit batters proved too much for the Panthers to overcome in an 8-7 loss to Fort Smith Southside in the 7A state semifinals.

“The way Cole (Nicholson) threw (in a win over Bryant on Monday), I really liked our chances if we made it to (the title game),” said head coach Jay Fitch, whose Panthers concluded the season with a 19-9 mark. “We just didn’t quite seal the deal.”

Southside scored a run in the first and four more in the second to jump out to a 5-0 lead on Tuesday. But Ben Wainwright’s three-run home run in the third got the Panthers right back in it. It was Wainwright’s sixth home run of the season, tying a school record.

The Rebels, though, punched across two more in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead to 7-3.

Once again, the Panthers responded, narrowing the gap to one with three more in the fourth. With one out, Ty Steele singled and Joe Bryant reached on an error. Powell Bryant delivered a two-run double and Burks cut it to 7-6 with an RBI single.

Though the Rebels added an insurance run, Tyler Erickson, who was named to the All-Tournament team, belted a solo home run to make it 8-7.

Cabot had one final chance in the seventh when it put runners at the corners, but couldn’t get them home.

“We just made too many errors,” Fitch said. “I told the kids that the bottom line was we just didn’t deserve to win today. We gave them four or five unearned runs and probably nine or 10 base runners where they didn’t even have to swing the bat. You can’t do that against a good team like that.”

Andrew Reynolds got the start after throwing 62 pitches in Cabot’s two games on Monday — an 8-6 win over Rogers and a 7-4 win over Bryant.

“Andrew couldn’t throw quite as hard as he normally does and his breaking pitch didn’t have its normal bite,” Fitch said. “But he really didn’t do too bad. Erickson came in and really did a good job in relief.”

The Panthers made it to Tuesday’s semifinal round with a 7-4 win over 7A-Central foe and No. 1 seed Bryant on Monday night.

Cole Nicholson took the win after being relieved by Andrew Reynolds in the seventh inning. Nicholson struck out seven and
walked only one.

Tyler Erickson hit a home run in the fourth inning, as Cabot built a 7-1 lead going into the final frame. Bryant rallied with three runs in the seventh. Cabot won its first-round game against Rogers 8-6 behind a three-RBI performance from Erickson.

Reynolds and Steele added two RBI each.

“Considering everything we went through, this was a pretty good season,” said Fitch, whose team endured the loss of two starters to moving and battled injury and illness most of the season. “We really only had a healthy lineup the final two weeks. It was just one thing after another. But I liked the way our kids fought.”

Cabot loses three starters to graduation — Burks, Wainwright and Matthew Turner.

SPORTS >> Heartache again for Red Devils

Leader sports editor

When the ball left Seth Tomboli’s bat, it had the look of a heroic shot — a potential game-winning, walk-off, two-run home run.

Instead, it went down in the books as a long out — the final out, in fact, of the Jacksonville season.

For the second straight year, the Red Devils were eliminated from the 6A state tournament in heartbreaking fashion in the quarterfinals. Lake Hamilton held off Jacksonville for a 5-4 win in a game which began on Monday and ended on Tuesday afternoon at Burns Park in North Little Rock. Last year in the tourney, Jacksonville lost a late three-run lead and fell 6-5 to Watson Chapel.

“I thought that ball Seth hit was going to hit the top of the fence,” said emotional Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows. “When he hit it, I was screaming at Tommy (Sanders, who was on first base) to come on, come on, come on. Because I knew we were going to score right there.”

But Lake Hamilton center fielder Tauno Vannuci hauled it in against the screen in deepest right-center field and Jacksonville’s season came to a close at 19-9.

The game was suspended on Monday evening with the game tied at 3 and it appeared destined to remain that way when Michael Harmon struck out the first two Wolves he faced on Tuesday afternoon in the top of the sixth inning.

But what appeared to be a harmless two-out walk turned into a Lake Hamilton rally. Rob Curry followed with a sharp single.

Tyler Bradshaw hit a tricky two-hopper to the left of the mound, and on the wet turf, Harmon bobbled it for an error to load the bases.

Freshman Jonathan Daniels, who drove in four of the five Lake Hamilton runs, lined a 2-2 pitch into the gap in left to drive in two and give the Wolves a 5-3 lead.

The Red Devils threatened to come right back when Sanders walked and Tomboli doubled off the top of the screen in left center. Devon McClure narrowed the gap to 5-4 with a sacrifice fly and Jacob Abrahamson walked.

Terrell Brown hit a hard grounder, but right at the shortstop. He mishandled it, though, to load the bases and put the tying run at third with just one out. But Lake Hamilton pitcher Jared Webb got Caleb Mitchell on strikes, and Bradshaw robbed Patrick Castleberry of a two-run single when he dove to his right at second to stab a hard grounder and flipped to the shortstop to end the inning.

“You get those hits, you advance,” Burrows said. “It just didn’t happen. But I thought (Castleberry’s grounder) was through. I was already waving (Jacob Abrahamson) around to score.”

Webb retired the first two Red Devils in the seventh before Sanders drew a walk. Tomboli then launched a high and deep fly to right-center on Webb’s first offering to him for the final out.

Jacksonville had one-out singles in each of the first four innings, but didn’t break through until it scored three times in the fourth to overcome a 2-0 deficit. After Nick Rodriguez blooped a one-out single, Logan Perry beat out an infield hit. A passed ball moved the runners along and Tomboli was safe on another infield hit as Rodriguez scored. McClure lined a single into left to tie it.

The Red Devils took the lead when Abrahamson beat out an infield hit down the first base line and Webb threw wild past first on the play. That allowed Tomboli to come around from second.

A walk, a sacrifice and two singles tied it up in the Lake Hamilton fifth and chased Tomboli, the Red Devil starter. Harmon came in and walked Josh Fortner to load the bases. But he got Josh Profitt on strikes to leave the score tied at 3. That’s when the next round of rain began, suspending action until Tuesday at noon.

“We got through all year with hitting and pitching and defense, and winning close games,” Burrows said. “I don’t know how to explain it. They made more errors than us and I think we out-hit them. You just scratch your head and wonder what happened today.”

Jacksonville had 10 hits to Lake Hamilton’s seven, but left nine men on base. Mitchell and Tomboli had two hits each. McClure had two RBI. Harmon, one of four senior Red Devils, took the loss in relief, allowing two walks, two hits and two runs — both unearned — over 2 1/3 innings. He struck out four.

Tomboli worked the first 4 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and three earned runs, while walking four and striking out three. Tomboli, Brown, Harmon and Sanders are the departing seniors.

“The four seniors have been character and class all the way,” Burrows said. “I will miss them very much. They’ll always be special to me.”

SPORTS >> Wampus Cats upend Cabot

Special to The Leader

Cabot gave Conway all they wanted, but couldn’t stop the Wampus Cats from running their winning streak to 42 games.

The Panthers fell 2-0 to the Wampus Cats on Monday afternoon in the Class 7A State Tournament at North Little Rock.

“They’re definitely a solid team, I mean their record speaks for itself,” said Cabot coach Clark Bing. “But I thought we played really well and were able to frustrate them sometimes.”

Cabot was able to keep Conway from having many good looks at the goal for the first 20 minutes of the match.

Conway started to break down the Cabot defense over the final 20 minutes of the first half. The Cats finally broke through with just over eight minutes remaining when Connor Silvestri found the back of the net to give Conway a 1-0 lead at halftime.

“We’ve been down 1-0 at the break several times this year, so we didn’t panic,” said Bing. “We really probably played as solid as we have all year. I think we’re one of few teams that can match up with them pretty well athletically.”

Conway scored again on a long shot from the left side of the field to the right corner of the goal 11 minutes into the second half.

Cabot didn’t get off a solid shot on goal until the final 15 minutes of the match.

“Conway doesn’t mess around much on defense,” Bing said. “They just don’t make mistakes back there.”

Cabot finished its season with a 9-9 record.

EDITORIAL >> No to ‘tort reform’

It is always re-assuring when a court does what American jurisprudence expects it to do, which is to ensure that justice is done. The Arkansas Supreme Court met that standard again Thursday, when it struck down two provisions of the state’s “tort reform” law that made it much harder and sometimes impossible for workers and consumers to be compensated for injuries that were caused by someone else’s negligence.

The court did not position itself on the side of workers against companies, which is how some will characterize its unanimous decision, but said merely that the Arkansas Legislature in its zeal to accommodate business interests exceeded its constitutional authority when it passed the Civil Justice Reform Act in 2005, or at least two sections of the act that were challenged in a lawsuit from Batesville.

Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the courts and not the legislature determine how testimony is admitted in trials and how liability is weighed.

The so-called “tort reform” movement was unhappy that the courts permitted too much testimony favorable to injured people and set out to limit it.

Thank you very much, but that is the courts’ prerogative, not the legislature’s, the Supreme Court said. A federal district judge who is trying the suit asked the Supreme Court to advise him on the two sections.

One of the sections allowed companies and individuals that are accused of negligence to bring in an array of other parties that cannot be sued and claim that those share the negligence, thus dramatically reducing their own liability for damages.

They may allege that cities or other agencies of government that cannot be sued were partly at fault. In the Batesville case, the Milwaukee manufacturer of a safety switch that malfunctioned and severely injured a mechanic at Eastman Chemical Co. claimed that Eastman altered the way the switch worked and should share a big part of the liability. The worker can’t sue his employer because the workers compensation system limits its liability to standard worker compensation payments.

The intended result of the phantom-defendant provision is that the injured person can never get full compensation.

In the same way, another section of the tort law prohibits testimony about a person’s total medical liability, limiting the testimony to the costs allowed under the employee medical plan. No, the Supreme Court said, the judicial branch and not the legislature determines what evidence is admissible. The Supreme Court has rules that govern procedural matters and any effort by the legislative branch to change them violates the separation of powers.

By protecting the constitutional safeguards against an overreaching branch of government, the Supreme Court coincidentally insured a measure of justice for workers. That usually is how it works.
—Ernie Dumas

Monday, May 04, 2009

TOP STORY >> Businessman roasted, Cabot High School seniors are honored at annual banquet Tuesday

Leader staff writer

Cabot developer, real estate agent and “vain” Democrat Bill O’Brien was roasted and toasted Tuesday night at the Cabot Scholarship Foundation’s 14th annual fund-raiser.

That’s what roaster Mayor Eddie Joe Williams called O’Brien. “Why he once told me he’d rather have his kids go to school naked and without lunch money than lose his hair,” the mayor said. “Well, Bill that hair ain’t helping, you are still ugly,” Williams quipped in front of a crowd of about 300.

This year the scholarship foundation gave out 38 scholarships, totaling $37,350, to Cabot High School seniors and those students were recognized and applauded at the banquet which was held at the school’s cafeteria.

“We try to help our students every way we can,” said John Thompson, foundation chairman. He said this year, 115 students applied for the many scholarships offered through the foundation. “It made us feel good going through the applications and looking at these future leaders. These students all had four-point grade averages or close to that. I thought 2.5 was the highest you could get,” Thompson quipped, reminiscing about his grade-point average.

“These students maintain those high grade-point averages while working part time and involved in a ton of extracurricular activities.

“We are going to be a better world because of the kids here tonight,” Thompson said.

Thompson said most of the scholarships given through the foundation were for about $1,000. “That might not seem much considering the cost of tuition, but studies have shown that the difference between staying in school and dropping out is often just $1,000.”

O’Brien was roasted by his longtime friend and business partner Bill Green, and Williams.

Another friend, David Many, was also set to roast O’Brien, but was called into work.

Green, who has known O’Brien since they were neighbors in the early ‘80s in Searcy, told the crowd that out of respect for O’Brien and his wife Linda, he came up with about six or seven stories and ran them by O’Brien. About half of those stories ended up in the recycling bin.

“Those are the ones I have for you tonight,” Green quipped as O’Brien sat nervously on stage.

Green said O’Brien was the front man for their development company. “I follow behind and clean up the mess,” he laughed.

Green said O’Brien is known as a talker and that he always has an opinion. He told of a time that the two went to present plans at a meeting and there were only about five people at the meeting and loads of empty seats.

“When it came to be our turn, I walked up to the microphone, expecting Bill to be right behind me, but he wasn’t. So then I thought, well, he’s got to get some papers and he’ll be right up here, but he never budged from the chairs. So after I gave the presentation and went back to our seats, I asked him why he didn’t come up with me.

“He said, ‘Well someone had to save our seats.’”

Green also told of the time that O’Brien’s wife bought him some lovely heart boxers for Valentine’s Day, and Green and some of O’Brien’s other buddies put the shorts high in a tree for everyone to see.

Speaking of clothing, Williams presented O’Brien with a t-shirt for his youngest grandchild that said, “I only cry when being held by Democrats.”

Williams said he came up with the idea after reading a therapist’s letter about O’Brien. It seems the grandchild only cries when being held by O’Brien or the therapist. The only tie between the two, Williams said, was that they were both Democrats, hence the shirt.

Williams also thanked O’Brien for increasing the city’s crime rate. It seems that O’Brien called Williams awhile back to say thieves had stolen one of his prized possessions–his Razorback truck.

In listening to O’Brien rail about the thieves, Williams asked, “So how did they break in?”

Williams said O’Brien replied that the thieves didn’t break in, they just walked in.

“Why?” Williams asked.

O’Brien said because he left the garage door unlocked. “So, they walked in and hot wired the truck,” Williams said.

Well, not exactly was O’Brien’s response. “Not exactly?” questioned Williams.

“I left the keys in the truck,” O’Brien said.

“So,” Williams told the crowd, “I said, you want to report the theft of your truck but thieves came in through an unlocked door and drove away because your truck was unlocked and the keys were in it?

“Well you would think a loss like that would teach Bill a thing or two, but a month later I got another call,” Williams said.

This time O’Brien had left the back door unlocked and thieves walked in and took his wife’s purse which was sitting by the door.

“So again, Bill, thanks for increasing our crime rate stats,” the mayor said.

When O’Brien took to the microphone he had stories on both Green and Williams.

O’Brien talked about the time that he and Green had decided to waterproof the basement of a house they were building and both ended up getting tar and gunk all over themselves and their clothes.

“O’Brien had his wife bring in a change of clothes, but Green decided to just drive home in his underwear. But on the way home, his truck rear-ended another vehicle. Can you imagine Bill scrambling to get his clothes back on? And to add insult to this, the woman he hit had just bought a house from us,” O’Brien said.

The mayor, O’Brien told the crowd, has turned out to be a bit of a moocher. “As most of you know, my wife and I are members of the Arkansas Razorback Road Hogs and we go to the games in our RV and cookout and have a good time. Well, a few years ago we invited the mayor to join us to eat. Now remember we invited him only that one time and he hasn’t missed a game meal with us since.”

O’Brien added that one time when the mayor and his wife arrived for the game, the mayor told O’Brien that his wife didn’t have her purse and he’d forgotten his wallet.

“He wanted to know if I could loan him some cash for a motel room so I gave him some money,” O’Brien said. “The mayor looked at what I gave him and said, ‘What, you expect us to stay in a Motel 6?’”

Besides the annual fund-raiser, the foundation also receives money from various community and civic clubs, local businesses and memorials for those who have passed.

This year, five new scholarships were given out through the foundation. For more information on the foundation, visit

TOP STORY >> Mayoral candidate, cancer survivor tells his story

Leader staff writer

Dozens of cancer survivors gathered at Jacksonville High School’s Jan Crow Stadium last weekend to participate in the city’s annual American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

One of those survivors stood out in the crowd: Jacksonville mayoral candidate Randy “Doc” Rhodd, also known as the motorcycle minister.

Rhodd was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003. On May 15, he will mark his sixth year of living cancer-free.

“I was scared because cancer runs in my family. My aunt died of cancer,” Rhodd said. His father died of cancer just last year, and his sister is now undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “It’s been a big mess for my family,” he said.

Before his father died, he told Rhodd that “he wouldn’t go down without a fight because you kids have always been my priority.” His father wanted to see his 17 grandchildren grow up.

That is the attitude that inspired Rhodd to put up his own fight against cancer, although not immediately.

“I put off treatment,” Rhodd said. He was nervous about the treatment process, which was a combination of chemotherapy and surgery at Baptist Hospital in North Little Rock and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

But he summoned the courage to start battling the disease because, like his father, he wanted to see his grandchildren grow up.

“My kids and grandkids give me hope and inspiration,” he said. He spent two weeks in the hospital after his surgery and he’s been busy ever since.

Rhodd is the head of Family Motorcycle Ministries, a church and charity organization based in Jacksonville. The group is collecting canned goods for 450 needy families in Jacksonville alone.

“A lot of kids here go to bed hungry and go to school on an empty stomach and that’s a tragedy,” he said.

Rhodd said that when you experience a serious illness like cancer, “you have a whole different perspective, a whole new outlook on life.”

That new way of seeing things has helped to shape his views of politics and society. It may also be the reason Rhodd chose to run for mayor.

Keeping the North Metro Medical Center and its neighboring medical clinic intact is at the top of his campaign platform.

“We need to make an agreement to keep them here,” he said, referring to the doctors who said they would leave Jacksonville if their office rents increased too much.

Rhodd also says a major reason for running is the closing of the Graham Road railroad crossing. He says Sunnyside residents feel isolated from the rest of the city.

“We need to let these people know that we aren’t cutting them off. That’s the heart of our history and our city,” the candidate said.

“Our economy here is horrid. We need to bring companies, we need jobs, we need to keep our money local,” he insisted.

Rhodd is a nontraditional candidate with five challengers who are more established in Jacksonville politics. He says that is why his campaign has gained so much momentum and appeal among voters.

He is proud of the support that he has received from residents.

If he doesn’t win, he plans to remain active in the community and continue his fight to improve the city.

“I am considering a run on the independent ticket for governor,” because he owes it to his supporters, he said.

He says it has been an honor to run in this race and to participate in the Relay for Life.

“This race has showed me that I have the strength and courage to bring change to Jacksonville,” he said. That mindset helped him to win his battle against colon cancer, and it might just help him win his goal to become mayor of Jacksonville.

TOP STORY >> Local ‘Idol’ barely makes it through another week

Leader staff writer

Kris Allen fans had a scare Wednesday when “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest revealed the bottom three contestants. Allen joined Adam Lambert and Matt Giraud as the three contestants who received the least amount of votes.

But Arkansans can breath easy, Allen is still in the running.

This week’s theme was songs of the “Rat Pack.”

Jamie Foxx, an actor and musician, spent time with each contestant, helping them perfect their crooning. He praised Allen, telling him, “You’re my No. 1. This is a dude I’d do a record with.”

Allen performed Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” earning him more praises from judges.

“That performance was near impeccable,” said Paula Abdul. “I personally think this is your best performance to date,” judge Randy Jackson told Allen.

Judge Kara DioGuardi told him, “You are truly a dark horse in this competition.”
And judge Simon Cowell had this to say, “I thought it was a little bit wet.”

Allen, whose brother talked him into auditioning for “American Idol,” was born and raised in Jacksonville and now lives in Conway with his wife, Katy.

He is the son of Neil and Kim Allen of Maumelle, formerly of Jacksonville. His grandparents, Charles and Linda Wood, still live in Jacksonville.

“American Idol” airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, when the final four will take the stage, and at 8 p.m. Wednesday for the results show.

TOP STORY >> Lulu Roman’s rough past, bright future

Leader staff writer

She’s a little bit country, a lot of comedy and all Christian and performed at Cabot High School Saturday, April 25th. She’s “Hee Haw” star Lulu Roman.

But she was once a hedonistic hippie on a drug-induced downward spiral.

“You’d be surprised how looking at 20 years in prison can start you on the right path,” Lulu said before the show, adding that it was God who kept her on that right path.

Roman, along with her manager Terry Rhodes, local sensation Kirby Shelby and Cabot’s very own Hallelujah Harmony Quartet, put on a laid-back, 90-minute, quality family show. Even though the crowd was small, the entertainers all thought the audience was enthusiastic and the entertainers enjoyed the night as much as the crowd.

Lulu, who turns 63 on Wednesday, took time backstage to talk about her life and also gave testimonial on stage to inspire those in the audience.

“I’ve lived a very tragic and very wonderful life,” she said.

The “Hee Haw” star, who is a member of the Country Gospel Hall of Fame, was born in a home for unwed mothers in the Dallas area and was quickly shipped out to an orphanage.

“Talk about feeling abandoned. Plus I had this little thyroid problem, so I was rounder than most of the other kids in the orphanage and they let me know it, too,” she said.

Lulu hit 300-plus pounds before having surgery.

Because of the weight, the teasing and a lot of other things, Lulu was a very angry person. “I felt abandoned by God, but He had a plan. I just didn’t know it at the time,” she said.

“I’ve lost 208 pounds,” she told the Cabot crowd.

Lulu said she started using drugs in high school and continued in college. “I took more LSD than anyone I know. I had a friend that would make it for me,” she said.

Even with her drug use, she managed to find work. First as a go-go dancer, then as a comedian, when she met Buck Owens.

“He told me I was the funniest thing he’d ever seen and that one day I’d be a big star and he’d have something to do with it,” she said, laughing.

A short time later, in 1969, when she was 23, she got a call to come out for the start of “Hee Haw.”

“I didn’t even have to audition. Buck and the others knew what they wanted. They wanted a blonde bombshell, a brunette bombshell, a fat funny guy and a fat funny girl. When they got to that part, Buck said he had the girl — me,” Lulu said.

“Here I was in the middle of a country version of ‘Laugh-In’ and didn’t know anything about country music. Remember I was a hippie through and through. I had no idea who Minnie Pearl or Roy Acuff were.”

Lulu said the first person she actually met going into the “Hee Haw” set was Carol Burnette. “She gave me great advice,” Lulu said. “She said close that mouth.”

Despite the show’s success and her own success, drugs still ruled her life. After her second arrest, she was eased out of the show and luckily, she said, ran into another girl from her orphanage days.

“She and her church just took me in and loved the hell right out of Lulu,” she said.

The entertainer still vividly remembers the day she dropped to her knees and turned her life over to the Lord in 1973.

“I called my friend and told her I was off drugs and to come by and help me through the withdrawals. It’s been 36 years and we are still waiting,” she said.

Besides facing jail time, Lulu’s child was addicted to drugs. “I was told he wasn’t going to live, but God had a plan. My baby is now 37, lives in Seattle and is in his fourth year internship at his church,” she said proudly. Her second son, born a few years later, is doing equally well.

As she got off drugs, her career blossomed. She was brought back to “Hee Haw” and stayed with the show until it ended in 1989. She still keeps in touch with most everyone from the show. “We were and still are just one big family,” she said.

Lulu said it’s important for her to tell her testimonial. “If the Lord can work wonders with me, there’s hope for everyone,” she said.

“People need to hear especially in the time we’re living in now that there is a place where you can go for hope and peace,” she said. She has found that in Jesus, she said.
When she came back to “Hee Haw,” she convinced the writers to include a gospel quartet on the show.

She and Terry Rhodes, who showed the Cabot audience that he’s quite a singer and comedian in his own right, performed 208 shows last year. They are now performing in Branson.